A few blocks from aptly named Comerica Park, the bank-sponsored stadium of the highest-paid athlete in sports history, you can buy an auctioned house for $500 in gutted, abandoned downtown Detroit. Consider than Miguel Cabrera, for only one at-bat based on current career averages, will make almost 100 times that amount — $49,423 — in a contract extension that could net him as much as $352 million.
Evidently, Internet and satellite TV reception is lacking in the Tigers’ offices. Because if the higher-ups were paying attention to similar contracts of 10 years or more in Major League Baseball — Alex Rodriguez’s 10-year, $275 million deal; Albert Pujols’ 10-year, $240 million deal; and the nine-year, $214 million deal for Prince Fielder that the Tigers couldn’t wait to abandon in the offseason — they’d realize how needless and preposterous it is to shower these sort of riches upon a one-dimensional player who turns 31 next month.
No one is disputing that Cabrera’s one dimension, hitting a baseball, is something he does as well as anyone who has played the game. But to grant him a new 10-year deal that will pay him at least $292 million — and $60 million more if vesting options are included for 11th and 12th years — is to bellyflop once again into the sport’s foolish spenders’ pool. This is the kind of historic deal a team eventually gives to Mike Trout, a five-tool superstar who’s no tool off the field and is all of 22. Magnificent as Cabrera is with a bat in his hands, the chances of him being worth more than $31 million a season in five years, much less 10, are doubtful.
He carries too much weight on his body, if you haven’t noticed, and the injury risk is high. As anyone knows who has debated Cabrera vs. Trout in the last two MVP races, both won by Cabrera, the man called Miggy is a liability as a defensive player and baserunner and likely will be a permanent designated hitter in the not-distant future. When Tigers president Dave Dombrowski describes Cabrera as “the best player in the game of baseball,’’ that is not true. He is the best hitter of his generation, but not the best player.
So why the splurge? And why now, when he wasn’t due for free agency for two more years and the Tigers could have monitored his health? The lesson should have been Pujols, who signed a whopper deal with the Angels and has spent his first two seasons fighting injuries that aren’t going away. Then there’s Rodriguez, still owed $63 million by the Yankees after years of injuries, drama, significantly diminished performance and, in the end, a performance-enhancing-drugs suspension. While Cabrera says he has been sober for some time now — and his performance and behavior the last two seasons provide evidence of a new lifestyle — it should be noted, at least, that he has made ugly, alcohol-related headlines and had to be picked up at the police station by Dombrowski one morning.
Because MLB is oozing of riches like never before, teams are going along with agents who are playing top-this in the compensation game. Cabrera’s deal exceeds the $30.7-million annual salary awarded by the Dodgers to pitcher Clayton Kershaw in January. But just because a team has money doesn’t mean it should be stupid in spending it.
“Any time you give long-term contracts, you’re concerned … because anything can happen in the game,” Dombrowski conceded.
Smelling a possible World Series title, after so many recent close calls, the Tigers ignored common sense and went wacko anyway. “This is a special day for my family, and for me,” Cabrera said. “I’m thankful because I want to finish my career here, I want to be a Tiger for many years.”
He will be a Tiger, all right, well into the next decade and straight into Cooperstown.
He also becomes the next likely member of the Regrettable 10-Year Deals Club, joining recent addition Robinson Cano. The teams never learn, do they?